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Where Australia's electricity comes from

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Malcom Turnbull wants to be Tony Abbott when he grows up.

I was utterly disgusted with the pathetic performance by Truffles McLobster last night.

Turnbull turns South Australia crisis into row over renewables

Maybe it was because he was in Tasmania and somewhat out of things. Or perhaps he was so intent on the political point he was about to make that he didn’t think the situation through.

For whatever reason, Malcolm Turnbull’s comments on the South Australian weather and power crisis at his Thursday news conference were notable for what they didn’t say.

Normally leaders drip sympathy for those affected by natural disasters. Turnbull paid tribute to the emergency services workers and those restoring power. But at no point did the Prime Minister express solidarity with ordinary South Australians. He was just anxious to get onto his argument about renewables.

The federal government has a new slogan. “We must keep the lights on.”

Indeed. First, however, let’s be clear why, according to what the experts say, the South Australian lights went off in such spectacular fashion. A massive storm tore out towers and brought down lines; lightning hit a power station. There was a “cascading failure” through the system, which shut down in self-protection.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) says the reason for the “cascading failure” of the network is still to be identified. But it declares the mix between renewables and non-renewables was not a factor.

After that stunt, the bloke has zero credibility left.

He could have used it as an opportunity to simply point out (correctly) that coordination and balance is necessary across the national grid, and that all levels of government should come together to make that happen.

Instead, he used it for blatant political point scoring, and is obviously trying to start another scare campaign about the evils of renewable energy to placate the hard right that controls him. Frankly we might as well have Barnaby Joyce as PM, for all the good Turnbull is likely to do for climate and energy policy.

Of course what he didn't mention, while bagging Queensland for not having a concrete plan for achieving their emissions target, is that his government has no idea how it will meet theirs.

Government officials have acknowledged that Australia’s 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reductions pledged at Paris in 2015 were made without any modelling to show whether existing policies could achieve those targets.

They also admitted the government did not have any modelling revealing when Australia’s emissions would peak.

The admissions, made in a parliamentary committee under questioning from Labor Senator for New South Wales Jenny McAllister, fly in the face of advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, telling the government it had “existing legislation, policies and measures to enable it to achieve” the the reductions.

They also follow a string of independent modelling exercises showing current policies will not achieve the emissions reductions committed to in Paris. Last week energy advisory firm RepuTex released modelling showing Australia’s emissions wouldn’t fall much at all between now and 2030, under current policies.

If Turnbull is as keen on agility and innovation as he claims to be, why not get agile and innovative with our grid? Hell, we don't even have to be innovative. We can just copy Denmark. They already source more of their power from wind than South Australia does, and are planning to ramp it up to 84% by 2035.



  • edited September 2016
    Contrail Chook, I found it all very dismaying, from Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce jumping in and blaming wind generation for the state being without power - completely untrue - to Prime Minister Turnbull claiming the high (but still inadequate) RE targets of "Labor" states was a serious problem endangering energy security and those targets needed to be opposed, to Energy Minister Frydenberg's inadequate rebuttals of the criticisms of RE and failure to even mention climate and transition to low emissions. No statements of commitment to adapting the power networks to cope with growing amounts of RE, just criticism of RE for growing rapidly within power networks that are (supposedly) not able to cope or (implied) cannot be modified in suitable ways.

    What none of these supposed acceptors of climate science and supposed supporters of the Paris Agreement (their official policy) appear willing to do is actually commit to the transition to low emissions that follows from that. Which leaves me believing the statements of wanting to do so in principle overlay a deep resistance to doing so in practice - well, they are very obvious about it even if they somehow fail to be called out for avoiding mention of how inextricably they are linked.

    Expect some rhetorical and diversionary use of "but nuclear" but those will be cheap shots at RE and "green" policies that remain completely free of actual commitment to this solution they profess so adamantly they prefer - and they won't go into how their much higher priority commitment to not fixing the climate problem by any means is antithetical to them promoting it.

    PS - I was very disappointed that none of the TV "journalists" didn't find any homes with lights still on because they have hybrid grid tied solar with batteries that still work when the grid is down.
  • How much renewable energy does the Australian grid have? Germany had a 20 percent share of solar and wind power in 2015.

    The German grid is highly reliable and is only getting more reliable. Is Australia the country of incompetent managers and electrical engineers?

    I would not vote for a politician that talks this way. To please his fossil fuel donors such a politician has an incentive to cut corners and provoke more large black-outs. That is not good

    Ken Fabian comment makes clear that such politicians are a good reason to go off grid as soon as possible.
  • There is a widget to the right that shows the Australian power generation mix real time Victor.
    I think the issue is one of distance with Australia being a vast empty land and the population spread mostly along the long coast line .Tying the grid together along this distance will always be problematic
    From what I have read they had a micro bust from the storm that effectively destroyed the transmission network at a key choke point. This would have had the same effect no matter the mix of generation capacity.
  • edited September 2016
    How much renewable energy does the Australian grid have?
    Overall, very little. South Australia has quite a bit (40% wind, and small amounts of household solar). Tasmania has a lot of hydro, when the dams are full. Other states mainly rely on coal at the moment.

    Is Australia the country of incompetent managers and electrical engineers?

    Funny you should mention that.

    It's a country of dinosaurs. Some of them survived the asteroid, and mutated over the years into lizards that appear to be human politicians. They're still dinosaurs though, and are only comfortable with fuels that have been around for as long as they have. Anything else is new-fangled hippy stuff that is coming to eat your babies.

    So these clowns have control of the government. The Prime Minister is their puppet, and they have their hands up his backside. When they wiggle their fingers, his lips move and noises come out of his mouth.
  • Most of the wind energy in Germany is in the North, which is also where a lot of Danish wind power enters the net. If you would look regionally, I would not be surprised if the North has more than 40%. Most of the industry is in the South. Multiple transmission lines go from North to South and new ones are being build. Part of these will be underground cables, unfortunately not all. Transmission is just a small part of the electricity price and power drop-outs due to storms and terrorism are economically costly, much more costly than the power the utility does not sell. I would say it is worth it to build a strong underground grid.
  • It sounds like a good option, as long as the area is geologically stable. I assume most of Germany is.
  • Oh and I thought of a great slogan for Malcolm Turnbull, if he survives until the next election. He could market himself as "Abbott, without the abs".
  • Yes, Germany is geologically stable, so much that I had not even considered that as a potential problem. Good point.

    I always saw the same picture of a broken transmission line, but now read that 3 major lines went down. That is really really a lot. I would be surprised if any network anywhere has enough redundancy to survive that. Forget my engineer joke. Against that only my beloved underground cables work.
  • edited October 2016
    An update on this.

    First, the Victorian government's reply to the idiocy of the Feds has basically been "Get a ferret up ya!".

    Victoria: Turnbull has no credibility on climate and clean energy policy

    Victoria’s state Labor government says prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has no credibility on climate and clean energy policy, and it will refuse any attempts by the federal government to dilute its state-based renewable energy targets and other clean energy initiatives.

    Energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio says the government’s attack on renewable energy since the South Australia blackout last week was wrong, hypocritical and would impact investment.

    She pointed to Turnbull’s comments back in 2010 – reinforced by Australia’s commitment to the Paris accord – that Australia was headed to a zero-carbon emissions scenario, where “almost all of our energy” comes from zero or near zero resources.

    “The prime minister no longer has any credibility in climate and clean energy policy,” she said.

    Not only that, but AGL (the largest power generator in South Australia) has come out and said that the claims of the Coalition and its supporters are completely wrong, and that rather than shying away from renewables we would be better off with more of them.

    AGL says local renewables would offer more security than current grid

    AGL Energy – the largest generator and retailer in South Australia – has dismissed the federal government’s suggestion that coal-fired generation could have avoided the complete blackout in the state last week, and said the best way to have energy security is to have a system of distributed renewable energy.


    The federal government has used the events to argue that the state-based renewable energy targets, which are much more ambitious than the national scheme, should be wound back in the interests of energy security.

    But Vesey also mocked this idea, saying that the way to make the system more secure was to introduce more renewable energy, particularly at a local level. In effect, a series of micro-grids, as was adopted by New York (Vesey comes from New York) after Hurricane Sandy.

    “If you have a system that was distributed – and didn’t have large transmission lines – you would have a more secure system,” Vesey said.

    “That is a very reliable system – and you can only get there with renewable energy.”

    Vesey did say that the market operator may have to review its mechanisms to protect against a system blackout, but this was a systems issue, not a source of supply issue.

    And, last but not least, Greg Hunt (who liked to think of himself as the world's best environment minister) has been shown (yet again) to be a blithering idiot.

    Coalition’s stunning hypocrisy – and ignorance – on renewable energy

    RenewEconomy asked Hunt’s office why it thought that a coal fired power station could have kept the power on, and resisted the massive loss of infrastructure that caused the sudden loss of supply and caused the entire network to trip, including the interconnector linking the state with Victoria.
    Hunt’s office replied:

    The transmission lines from Port Augusta to Whyalla were not damaged by the storm. Power is only being  impacted because of the damage on the other side of the gulf and the need to maintain stability in the network."

    “Therefore if Port Augusta had retained base load generation this could have been available to assist in maintaining both the lines North and South West of Port Augusta.”

    Energy experts say this is nonsense, saying it reveals a fundamental failure to understand how the system works. The catastrophic failure of the transmission system would have left the coal fired generators without much of their load, causing exactly the same sudden change in frequency and voltage that would cause any generator to trip.

    “The minister’s comments show a fundamental lack of understanding around how the system works and responds to such a dramatic fault, and what it takes to perform a “black start”/restart the system,” said Melbourne Energy Institute’s Dylan McConnell.
    I can't wait to see how they try to spin this.

    Edit: I just noticed that the ridiculous article by Chris Uhlman on the ABC website has mysteriously disappeared today, after taking pride of place for several days. I would not be at all surprised if Uhlman is feeling embarrassed right now. He should be. He made a complete fool of himself, and of the ABC.
  • Turnbull is getting even more ridiculous.

    Malcolm Turnbull says Labor's stance on renewable energy is 'political claptrap'

    Malcolm Turnbull has branded Labor’s position on renewable energy as ideology and “political claptrap” while attempting to brush off a question about why he praised South Australia as a leader in renewable energy during the federal election but castigated the state over its reliance on wind power last month.

    The prime minister was asked on Monday by the shadow climate minister, Mark Butler, why he championed renewable energy in SA during the campaign “only to use an extreme weather event to play politics after the election?”

    Turnbull doubled down on his political attacks, telling parliament Labor treated renewable energy as an “ideological” issue rather than a technological issue.

    This is just beyond pathetic now.

  • Still more! At a speech in Brisbane, Mr Turnbull said coal would be part of Australia's energy mix for "many, many, many decades" to come.
  • Oh god, I just saw that. He has totally lost the plot. He really is as bad as Abbott. No discernable difference. We need a government for the 21st centuty dammit, not for the bloody 19th.
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